ALBEMARLE — With three out of the eight statewide COVID-19-associated inmate deaths, the Albemarle Correctional Institution continues to be a place of concern according to North Carolina Department of Public Safety officials.
The latest data from the NCDPS shows that Albemarle Correctional has a coronavirus positivity rate of 13.7%, which is over three times the state average (4.5%) compiled from 56 prisons. The 773 tests conducted at the Stanly County facility have accounted for 106 positive results and 667 negative results.
According to a NCDPS update on Aug. 3, COVID-19 mass testing has been completed at all statewide prison facilities, and 32,250 offenders have received their test results. Since the beginning of testing back on June 22, 1,450 offenders have tested positive for the virus while 30,796 have tested negative.
All inmates who tested positive for COVID-19 are either in medical isolation or are presumed recovered with the assistance of NCDHHS guidance.
John Bull, communications officer for NCDPS on prisons, told SCJ on Aug. 4 that the pre-existing health factors of inmates at the Albemarle prison is a leading factor in the institution’s high number of positive COVID-19 results.
“There is a substantial number of offenders there who have acute medical issues,” Bull said.
On July 26, the NCDPS issued a press release stating that the statewide inmate death toll is up to eight following the third death at the Albemarle prison. The inmate, a male in his early 70s with underlying health conditions, tested positive for COVID-19 on July 2. Throughout his hospitalization during July, his condition worsened.
“His death is a tragedy, and we are working hard to manage the impact of COVID-19 in our prisons,” Todd Ishee, commissioner of prisons, said in the NCDPS press release. “The health and safety of the staff and the offenders in our custody remains our top priority.”
Albemarle Correctional currently has the fourth highest amount of positive COVID-19 tests out of all NC prisons.
Neuse Correctional Institution, located in Goldsboro, has recorded 466 positive tests out of 817 inmates, while Raleigh’s North Carolina Correctional Institution for Women has 238 positives out of 1386 inmates. Out of 675 tests, the Lumberton Correctional Institution has announced 212 positive cases.
On July 24, the NCDPS reaffirmed that it is continuing the suspension of visitation, work release, volunteers and educational classes until reevaluation on Aug. 16.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Stanly Community College has scaled down the programs it currently offers to inmates at Albemarle Correctional — the typical Career and College Readiness courses have been put on hold indefinitely due to visitation restrictions.